Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reshaped the concept of security in the region. The Finnish ambassador to Mexico, Päivi Pohjanheimo, receives El Economista to analyze the issue and the possible entry of her country into NATO, a scenario supported by a majority of her population.
Will Finland soon ask to join NATO? Will it be at the Madrid Summit in June?
Due to the strong citizen support and the clear parliamentary majority in favor, the decision could be taken at any time by the President of the Republic and by the government led by Prime Minister Sanna Marín. But to ensure a solid and firm political platform, we prefer the widest possible parliamentary exchange. That said, Finland is likely to make its decision already in the coming weeks.
“Why had they chosen neutrality?”
The most important reason for remaining militarily non-allied has been the lack of popular support. Most Finns have stressed the credibility of our own national defense forces. With the Russian invasion this changed overnight.
Are the Finns currently in favor of joining NATO?
Some 70% of Finns and a majority of parliamentarians are in favor of Finland applying for NATO membership for greater security.
—How is Finland preparing for the Russian reaction after joining NATO?
Finland is prepared for the regime of Vladimir Putin to extend the harassment of our country during the NATO accession process, which will probably last several months. This spring, during the heightened public conversation about possible membership, Finland has noted an increase in Russian cyberattacks against it. We anticipate verbal threats, airspace violations, and troop deployments near our border. There is nothing new in these media and Finland has prepared to face them.
—What is your reflection on the war? Finland has a huge border extension with Russia.
I cannot stress enough, I can only say that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought about a fundamental change in the operating environment of Finnish security. It has both short-term and long-term effects, endangering the security and stability of the whole of Europe. What are the characteristics of your country’s foreign policy?
Finland’s foreign and security policies are based on human rights, the international system of rules and international law. Due to its geographical location, Finland chose not to ally militarily and for neutrality during the Cold War. However, neutrality no longer considered it viable at the end of that time. Officially neutrality ended in 1995, and since that year we have been part of the European Union. But what we now see in Ukraine is not a balanced war between the two sides. Instead, we see a futile and cruel, unprovoked and unjustified aggression from Russia to its neighboring country.
—It seems that your neighbor Sweden will also apply to join NATO
Finland and Sweden make their own decisions independently, but due to the close bilateral cooperation, we see that ideally both countries would apply for NATO membership simultaneously.
—Strategically, what will the changes look like once Finland and Sweden are part of NATO?
The possible membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO would increase the threshold for the use of military force in the Baltic Sea region, which would improve the stability of the region. Due to its location, Finland has an army and intelligence that would be useful to NATO, especially in the matter of defending the Baltic countries, such as Estonia.